#BounceExclusive: Has Christmas Been Postponed In Lagos?
Udoka sells women clothes at the popular Balogun market in Lagos.
The street is lined with shops selling several kinds of women fashion items and affordable jewelry.
Along the crowded alleyway are hundreds of young men and women, many of them with fashion items heaped on the crooks of their arms hustling after every passersby.
They are shouting their voices hoarse announcing significant price cuts to attract customers.
It was in this chaotic scene under the surprisingly December hot sun that I stood to gauge the pulse of the market.
All I saw was Lagosians acting like Zombies. They were not moved by ongoing 'mass' sales. People kept walking without turning their heads to do window shopping.
Could it be that they imagined a price would be charged for looking or there is simply no cash in people's purses and pockets?
Of course, many of them had rushed me displaying their wares and coaxing me to choose one for “my beautiful lady”.
But I simply told them I had not come to shop and stood there for several minutes to see how many people were shopping but indeed there were only the sellers and many passersby.
Have the shoppers left town?
And then I approached Udoka, one of those who had courted my patronage earlier and asked him how sales were going.
“Bros, this year no be am o,” he started in Pidgin.
“It is like there is no Christmas. This time last year, there wouldn’t have been no space for you to stand as you are standing now,” he continued.
“Sales have been poor. You know before now, even if others are complaining, we don’t usually complain because ladies must wear clothes, but this year is just somehow,” he said.
Few metres away stood Ola in front of a cashmere wool shop carrying an album which displayed unique styles of the popular senator designs.
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Business, he said, has not been that bad.
“For me, compared to last year, I have definitely made more sales this year. And I will not say its because Nigeria is out of recession. For me, business gets better with each year. So, I am making more sales this year than last year just as I made more sales the year before it,” he said.
Further into the market, Sadiq stood near his array of travel boxes. He told Bounce News that business for him has not been bad as well except it has not been as great as last year.
“Last year I was selling more boxes by this time (even though he is not sure how many exactly). But I am still making some sales, but I expect sales to get better within the week,” he said.
At the Lagos International Trade Fair, the voices of traders weren’t diverse – everyone was doing badly, at least at the cosmetic section where Bounce News monitored.
“Last year was even better. This year everyone has been shouting and saying that they do not know whether there is Christmas or just ordinary celebration,” started Chukwudi Chita who deals in assorted cosmetic products.
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He continued: “By this time last year, this market was so busy as people came to shop to stock their shops from various places including from neighbouring countries, but this year, everything is looking as if there is no Christmas coming.
“Take for instance, there were people who came to the market from several parts of the country last week to stock their shop for Christmas but that is not supposed to be so. That would be their last for this year as they market will soon shut down for the year.
“That is a sign that all is not well. They are supposed to be coming this week because this week is usually the peak of Christmas sales,” he explained.
Another trader, who simply identified himself as Ekene said, “this year has particularly been a tough year. Many people who were into the business have moved to another business because of poor sales.
“The only people that seem not be seriously affected are the importers because they are filling in the supply gap and people that come from several parts of the country buy from them in bulk.
"But people on the wholesale/retail side are really suffering. There is no season", he lamented.
“Last year during the Christmas period, many customers would come and spend as much as 400,000 naira but this year has been so poor that the highest I have seen is 150,000 naira,” lamented another trader Collins Ezenwa.
According to Collins, “This year, those that used to come regularly on weekly basis last year, now come once in a month or even once in 2 months. And this is all because of poor sales.
“And you know, this our business is a cycle. If patronage of the traders we supply to falls, our own also suffers,” he said.
At the popular computer Village market at Ikeja, the usual milling around was there as traders were seen very busy but one trader, Andrew Iziogo at the mobile phone accessories section told Bounce News that this year’s Christmas sales has been dull.
“It is just like normal business day. There is nothing like Christmas sales. In fact, somedays we just manage to get our transportation fare. And it was not like this last year. Last year, we had more sales actually,” he said.
By this period last year, Nigeria’s economy was neck deep in recession after recording negative GDP growth for three consecutive quarters.
After series of measures amid recovery in global oil prices, the economy has finally started making slow recovery; recording marginal growth of 0.55% in the second quarter of 2017.
But impact of the recovery is yet to be felt on the streets or has been sluggish at best.
For traders across the country, this season is usually the peak of sales as hundreds of millions of Christians across the country prepare to travel to celebrate with their loved ones.
But if sales is this poor in Nigeria's commercial capital, what is the fate of traders in other parts of the country?
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